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After 27 years, It’s time to trade feed for fish
by Bill Clough
Oct 22, 2013 | 112 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Charlene Parker rests against the sign on the Parker Feed Store chain-linked fence announcing it is closing at month’s end.
After 27 years, citing advancing years and a growing desire for saltwater fishing, Charlene and her husband, E.H., are leasing the property.
Charlene Parker rests against the sign on the Parker Feed Store chain-linked fence announcing it is closing at month’s end. After 27 years, citing advancing years and a growing desire for saltwater fishing, Charlene and her husband, E.H., are leasing the property.
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Charlene and E.H. in the Parker Seed warehouse, which soon will be emptied.
Loyal customers are ordering feed to last for months before going to another feed store.
Charlene and E.H. in the Parker Seed warehouse, which soon will be emptied. Loyal customers are ordering feed to last for months before going to another feed store.
slideshow
IT’S NOT that the horses, cows, pigs or chickens will go hungry.

But starting Nov. 1, their owners, who have bought feed all these years from from Charlene and E.H. Parker, will have to go elsewhere.

After 27 years, Parker Feed is closing.

They have leased their property to a man from Sinton planning to open a machine shop in Beeville to be closer to the Eagle Ford Shale operations.

Sitting in the crowded office, surrounded by four file cabinets decorated by the paraphernalia associated with operating a feed store — “I’ll guess that stool there is about 50 years old” — Charlene is rushing to be out of the building in time.

Truth to tell, the Parkers have been trying to sell or lease the property for a couple of years.

“It’s the age limit,” she says. “I used to lift those 50-pound bags of feed on my shoulder. Not anymore. It’s just time.”

Charlene is 73; E.H. is 75.

“I was down here six days a week — 60 hours a week — no time off unless there is a holiday, no vacation, no time to visit friends or families — it’s just time.”

CHARLENE WAS the first baby born in Victoria County in 1940. After being graduated from high school in 1958, she met E.H. two years later.

The couple say their regular customers understand the decision, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it.

Over the years, the business has attracted 100 to 150 regular customers.

“They say they like dealing with a mom-and-pop operation,” which, she notes, are disappearing.

That operation began in 1986 when Charlene and E.H. began selling dog food out of a metal shed next to their home, some four miles north of town on Farm-to-Market Road 673.

After nine years, they moved the business, now a full-fledged feed store, to its present location at 673 and the FM Road 351 bypass on the city’s northwest side.

“It’s a steady income, but it won’t make you rich,” she says, “and you can’t be afraid of work.”

Over the years, 44 high schoolers have worked for her. They were, she admits, a mixed blessing.

“I told one kid to dust all the shelves. In about 10 minutes, I found him asleep on the sacks of feed. He told me he was finished. All he did was take a feather duster and swipe the stuff on the shelves.”

What she wanted, she said, was for the youngster to remove everything on the shelves, dust the products, dust the shelves and re-stack everything.

Another youngster left for lunch and never returned.

“I realized I was wasting more time showing them what I wanted done than to do it myself.”

She has worked alone since 2008.

ONE EDGE Parker Feed has enjoyed over chain operations, she says, is that “our feed is always fresh. I have a truck from my supplier that comes through here every week. Keeping that feed fresh was a big plus among our customers.”

“You don’t want feed sitting on the floor for a month or six weeks, especially during the summer. You get a bug problem.”

“You can’t bluff your way in this business,” the usually laconic E.H. stresses. “I’ve raised animals, and customers pick up on that. You’ve got to know the business.”

Which he does, Charlene says. “He’s a farm boy, born and raised in the country.”

She hesitates and then chuckles when she remembers a customer a couple of years ago who brought some black turkeys he had just bought from a competitor.

“He paid $6 each for them. I took one look at them and realized they weren’t turkeys. They were chickens, which cost about $2 each.”

Charlene also used to raise goats.

“But after spending 10 hours here, the last thing I wanted to do was go home and tend to the goats.”

Still, word gets around. One day, when all the local veterinarians were busy, Charlene got a call from a woman who had a goat that needed help.

“Is Dr. Parker there?” she asked.

A FRIENDLY atmosphere, making customers feel they are welcome, is the key to their success, she says. “They don’t like the service they get elsewhere.”

Which goes a long way to explain a company in Beeville attracting customers from Three Rivers, George West, Sinton, Pettus and Normanna.

Faced with the Oct. 31 closing, many have ordered enough feed to last months before they have to switch to another store.

With half a month to go, the warehouse is more than half-empty. There are no plans for a going-away party.

And while their customers are busy trying to build a business relationship elsewhere, Charlene and E.H. know where they will be.

“I love saltwater fishing,” she says. “I’m not the traveling type — except to Port O’Connor, or Rockport or Aransas Pass.”

Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.
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